Showing posts from February, 2016

Trump and Sanders

That sign - the one pointing in the direction of the White House - is looking ever closer to the truth.  Trump hasn't just won South Carolina, he's once again swamped his opponents.  While Jeb Bush finally acknowledges that his lame and unconvincing campaign really isn't going anywhere, Ted Cruz must also be feeling anything but glorious as he contemplates the failure of his vote to go beyond the already tied-in evangelicals.  As for Rubio, he's made it big - for the first time - by coming in second a bare few percentage points above Cruz.  Not exactly the aura of an invincible challenger to the galloping maverick in front of him.

It's still difficult to see how the Republican race might coalesce around a serious challenger to Trump, and in the meantime the Donald should start thinking about possible VP picks.  And here's a mould-busting thought.  Given that Hillary Clinton may finally have consigned her own opponent to the position of supporting act in the De…

Trump comes to Washington

Donald Trump's presence is already clear in Washington DC.  A couple of blocks down from the White House a large placard announces that Trump is coming here in 2016.  Whether or not his company's renovation of the old Post Office building into its latest hotel (with what will be "Washington's largest ballroom" - just right for an inaugural ball) is a sign of a more serious presence in the nation's federal capital is yet to be seen, but as South Carolina's primary enters its closing phase as I write, Trump is starting to look like an unstoppable force.

If New Hampshire proclaimed Trump's ability to transcend the largely hostile coverage from the mainstream media, and his clear political potency after having been seen initially as a national joke, then South Carolina could be the primary that makes him the almost unbeatable front-runner.  Trump as president is not looking quite such a remote prospect today.

Of course, this extraordinary and unpredictab…

Justice Obama? McConnell's blocking strategy could be fantastic news

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Well it's a thought anyway.  If conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's death has plunged America into a potential constitutional crisis and more crie de coeurs about whether its system of government is fit for purpose, there is still some mileage to be made by beleaguered Democrats.

In short, Scalia was a conservative Justice - rigorously conservative actually - whose replacement by anyone even marginally to his left could initiate a change in the political direction of the Court.  And make no mistake, political direction is what it is all about.  This court has long been political, whether it was as an activist liberal court under Earl Warren, or the Republican leaning Court that appointed its political fellow traveller, George W Bush, as president in Bush v Gore in 2000.

So its opinions may be beautifully worded and legally argued to the nth degree, but they have a huge political impact and the Justices all know it.

So does President Obama, the appoi…

Putin shows the West how you do Mid-East policy

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The devastating impact of bombing and renewed fighting upon Aleppo in Syria is being brought home to us via news reports and tales of ever increasing numbers of refugees.  It also places a spotlight once again upon the imperturbable Russian president, Vladimir Putin's, Middle East strategy.  Briefly hailed as a joint step forward with western interests, it is in fact clear that Putin - unsurprisingly - has no interest in western aims and is methodically, and successfully, pursuing a Russia First policy in his dealings in Syria.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent, Jonathan Marcus, gives a cogent and clear assessment here of just how Mr. Putin is winning his own war in Syria.  And, as Marcus points out, it includes an abject lesson to western governments mired in confusion as to how to carry out middle-eastern policy.  Marcus notes that Russia chose a credible side to back in the civil war, one that had sufficient forces on the ground; set herself achieva…

America's Wind of Change

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As I noted below, I don't think New Hampshire can give us any clear indications as to the future roll-out of this extraordinary 2016 presidential campaign.  But it has at least confirmed that 2016 is the year of the anti-establishment iconoclast.  That the insurgencies in both parties were well advanced was clear before New Hampshire, and the vote there has given it a bit of real-poll traction.  The key thing, as must have been noted a zillion times already today, is whether those odd insurgencies can be maintained away from the rarefied atmospheres of Iowa and New Hampshire.  If there is a consensus wisdom it seems to be that Trump has the better chance of taking it all the way to the convention floor in what is a significantly more disrupted party, and of course he has reliable deep pockets where Sanders needs the regular mass contributions of his punters.

The poll tracking from Real Clear Politics currently has Trump comfortably leading Cruz in South Car…

New Hampshire's Lessons

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What does New Hampshire tell us about the likely future course of the US presidential nominations?   Nothing.  Seriously.  There will be no lack of important commentary on Rubio's struggle to finish third, and how that means he is falling back/still very much in the race.  How Sanders' win is 2008 again for Hillary/is no real concern to Hillary.  How Trump is clearly headed for the Republican nomination/is still a joker leading a pack ready to devour him.

Iowa and New Hampshire are fascinating states, and their early primaries give some actual voting figures to a race that has had to rely on polls since last summer.  Momentum in those states has traditionally allowed candidates to move ahead with more funding into the sunlit uplands of the south and west.  But the reality is that these lily-white states are not very representative of the immense diversity that is America's demographic,  and while providing excitement they have not fundamentally chan…

Bloomberg's Candidacy?

Michael Bloomberg has hinted that he may stand as an Independent in the forthcoming presidential race.  One of my students, preternaturally informed about politics, had suggested this scenario to me last week and I had airily dismissed it, with the assured, patronising air that only years in teaching can perfect.  So it is personally annoying to find the former New York mayor making his candidacy mutterings again.

However, he's not yet declared, and Bloomberg does have a habit of flying his balloons and then retreating back as if they were a blue touch-paper.  And it is difficult to see what he gains from an independent candidacy, unless it is a manoeuvre to further de-stabilise the Republicans by dragging their moderates (there are still a few) into his camp.  So I may yet be right.  God, I hope so.  It's humiliating to find a 16 year old has a more prescient grasp of political outcomes than I do!

Cameron has more trouble with the opposition (that'd be the newspapers)

With the Labour party mired in their own internal squabbles, of which yesterday's fractious meeting with shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry was the latest example, David Cameron's opposition is centered elsewhere.  And where better than those responsible denizens of principled opposition than the print media.

The press leapt into over-drive again today to condemn Cameron's suggestion yesterday that France might consider moving the UK border back to Dover in the event of a British exit from the EU.  Their headlines and commentaries trumpeted a major mis-step on Cameron's part, with the Telegraph headlining France's response as being opposed to any such movement.  The sources for this strong assertion were strangely limited and anonymous, with the most credible reference being a speech by French Internal Affairs minister Bernard Cazenove - made last October.

In fact, Cameron's suggestion has rather more credibility than the average Telegraph headline.  Fo…

Cameron's problem is less the EU and more a hostile media

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David Cameron undertook a considerable gamble when he promised to try and get some reform of the EU in Britain's interests, in order to then pursue a referendum on continued membership.  Both elements of the same strategy, they were designed to lance the most lethal boil on the Tory body politic, Europe.

The country at large is not particularly bothered about Europe.  It's there, we're members, it's probably corrupt like most political institutions but hey, what can you do.  That's the broad line of thought - if any exists - that the majority probably have towards Europe.  It is completely at odds with the Tory world's utter obsession with the project.  The Telegraph's usually reliable sketch writer, Michael Deacon, tries to have a pop at Cameron's new deal by picking out its most obscure element and sarcastically suggesting it'll be the talk of the pubs (“Oh, well that changes everything. If Cameron’s won a declaration on t…

Iowa in perspective

Excellent piece in the New York Times from Nate Cohn on the Iowa caucuses.  He pushes down into the figures and comes up with some shrewd analysis.  As someone concerned by the Cruz strength, I was particularly interested in this gutting of the Republican front-runner's figures:

But his path to the nomination is still not an easy one. He will face full-throated opposition from many prominent Republicans, as was the case here in Iowa. And Mr. Cruz’s narrow victory was not especially impressive. It depended almost exclusively on strength among “very conservative” voters, who are vastly overrepresented in the Iowa caucuses. There was no primary state where “very conservative” voters represented a larger share of the electorate in 2012 than they did in Iowa. He won just 19 percent among “somewhat conservative” voters and a mere 9 percent of the “moderate” vote.

Like many commentators today, Cohn considers Rubio to be the real winner in the Republican stakes; a last-minute headwind of s…

The Iowa Storm

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You can see why Iowa has a state law mandating that it be the first state to hold caucuses in presidential election years.  If she wasn't, few candidates would do much listening to this small Mid-Western state.  As it is, every four years she gets huge amounts of love and attention lavished on her and it must feel good.

How much the Iowa caucuses can determine the course of presidential nominations remains moot of course.  In 2008 the Democrat race took a new and irrevocable turn when Barack Obama beat the "unbeatable" Hillary Clinton.  In 2012, however, Rick Santorum was victorious in the Republican race - and now he is merely a footnote in presidential election history.

So we should be wary of predicting long-term trends from the informal votes of a small but committed Iowa population.  That said, this is at least the first time real people have committed themselves to different candidates, and whatever lies ahead it's the first indication w…